This is a shout out to all my girl friends, who have constantly been scrutinized about how they’re dressed on a night out, or even go out to the supermarket or show up to school. Because what our society has established is this: a minidress is an open invitation for molestation. A low-cut tank top a ticket to ride. Any item revealing the flesh other than the arms and legs allows others to behave like uncivilized creatures of wanton desires towards the wearer.
This is what was conceived at the incident at Clarke Quay just last week, when a female foreign exchanged student was molested by a white man. I knew about it from my classmate, who shared on Facebook a response article. What was more disturbing than the news itself were the countless, bigoted responses from Singaporeans and even expatriates alike.
Being a foreign student myself, it’s alarming and distressing to clearly see the reflected attitudes of the very people who surround me. And potentially would be there if I were to go clubbing at Clarke. Yes, people are getting drunk, hooking up, probably having sex in the bathroom. But when someone obviously had defended themselves and rejected the perpetrator, that’s when the line has to be drawn. It’s terrifying when people don’t get that message. And it doesn’t help when someone judges you instead of help. I’m getting sick and tired of that same ol’, same ol’. There is absolutely no excuse for someone to be pardoned for harassing someone because of what the victim was wearing. Besides, dress not the only factor in play as to why people become victims of rape, assault, harassment or molestation.
But honestly, it would be ignorant of me to think I would get away with wearing a midriff-bearing two piece at a ghetto area in Singapore late at night, alone — my point is to maintain being reasonable. Not to say that you shouldn’t dress as you please. Unfortunately, our world is not at a state ready to accept women not wearing bras freely in public, without producing disdainful looks on other people’s faces. At least not right now. But the conclusion is that it’s not our fault. Even with the extreme measures of precaution, people still get harassed. Sorry if I’m scaring you, don’t get paranoid, but I’m prepping facts here. People can be scary as hell.
Only recently had schools in Singapore realized the importance of teaching students to understand how intolerable violence is. Corporal punishment, the practice of caning to discipline, is legal for boys in Singapore (and a few areas in the United States and very few other countries). The government, in fact, encourages it. Isn’t that ironic? It kind of defeats the whole purpose. So, in a country where men are taught discipline by violence, it’s no surprise some fail to understand why harassment isn’t tolerable. The only deterrent is getting caught in the act, and the consequences for that, but not the act itself. This doesn’t mean that they do it just for fun, but they can’t grasp the concept that what they’re doing is utterly wrong. The saying ‘women were always told “not to get raped”, but men were never taught “not to rape”‘ is then justified here. But it should not be an excuse not to think through your actions — be reasonable. Remember: we have our right to dress without “asking for it”.
Nick Knight’s project from 2012, entitled ‘Get Back, Stay Back’ is a nice political film that raises the notion of fashion clothing (instead of being invitations to sexual assault, as society has perpetuated) should be and can be a weapon for self-defense.
Not in the literal sense, like Gundam armor suits. It’s simultaneously a self-defense 101 as well as a stylish film. I’m more in favor of this message: women should have the power to stand their ground and defend themselves, instead of being encouraged on letting the man go with their mistakes. Again, this is not always the case since some situations don’t allow it. Nevertheless, this notion, can change the way perceive harassment and turn the blame away.
Although the danger lies ahead, we can’t wait for a time until it is possible for us to generally wear whatever the hell we want, without being scrutinized. People will never learn if people continue to be submissive, and walk away when they were obviously touched unwittingly. The girl at Clarke Quay took a stand and defended herself, which I think was commendable. All I can suggest is to be more inquisitive about your environment. Quoting Dave Chappelle, “The worst thing to call somebody is crazy. It’s dismissive. “I don’t understand this person. So they’re crazy.” That’s bullshit. These people are not crazy. They strong people. Maybe their environment is a little sick.”